Posts published in October, 2013

New California State Policies: Implications for Data and Research

Comprehensive Revision Plan For Pell Grants

To fit the needs of a 21st century economy and student population, the Pell Grant program needs fundamental reform requiring significant congressional action, these authors argue. They recommend establishing support with tailored guidance and services, simplifying eligibility and application, and offering incentives to students to increase completion rates. (Hamilton Project). Put Hamilton Project in your search engine to find report.

One In Ten Students Default On Loans In 2 Years

Ed Money Watch  

Hidden amidst the shutdown furor was the annual release by the U.S. Department of Education of new student loan default rates. The data measure how many borrowers who entered repayment in a single year defaulted on their federal student loans within two or three years. This year, the data show that 10 percent of borrowers default within two years of entering repayment and 14.7 percent do so within three years. Full Article.

Federal Policy Needs More State Incentives

Joni Finney writes in The Quick and the Ed: If the federal government doesn’t take into account the role that states play in financing their systems of higher education, their funding strategies are likely to simply maintain the status quo. Student financial aid is not the only area of finance that deserves attention through better inter-governmental cooperation. Federal investment in higher education should prod states in constructive directions. Incentives are the tool to get this done, a tool used far too infrequently in Washington.

What College Board College Pricing Report Will Not Tell You

Higher Ed Watch

This week the College Board released its annual sets of trends reports, one on college pricing and one on student aid. Dense, chart-filled works, the documents tell a story of what today’s post-secondary students are facing. But each report typically carries a message with it, one that often tries to dampen the sense of unabated cost escalation. Full Article

Another Hint That Performance Based Scholarships May Work

Scholarship Demonstration in Arizona

College graduation rates for Latino students, especially Latino male students, are lower than the national average. This  MDRC report presents findings from a study of performance-based scholarships paired with a robust set of student services designed to help low-income Latino men succeed. Performance based scholarships pay students periodically for successful postsecondary attainment.

Overview »    |    Full PDF »

Conservative Trustees Blast College Quality and Costs


•             American colleges and universities earn a disappointing “C” for core curriculum

•             National four-year graduation rate is just 40% among 1,091 institutions studied

•             Many institutions seem to be “tuition traps” for their high cost, low grad rates, weak core curriculum

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni today released the 2013-2014 edition of What Will They Learn?, which highlights the tremendous disconnect between perception and reality in higher education. Though Americans expect colleges to deliver a quality four-year liberal arts education in an environment that does not stifle students’ freedom of speech, What Will They Learn? shows that too many institutions are letting students down.

The study examines four crucial components of higher education excellence and value: the curriculum (rated “A” through “F”), the four-year graduation rate, freedom of speech on campus, and college cost.

CURRICULUM: Only 22 institutions (2 percent) receive an “A” grade for requiring at least six of seven subjects that are essential to a liberal arts education: literature, composition, economics, math, intermediate level foreign language, science, and American government/history. The average institution requires about three courses—meaning most students are graduating from college without exposure to such fundamental courses as American history, basic economics or literature. In too many places, graduates aren’t expected to have any more knowledge of these pivotal courses than a twelfth grader.

GRADUATION RATES: Not only are students graduating with major gaps in their skills and knowledge, but they’re doing so with record debt. Part of the reason is that only two in five first time, full time students complete a four-year degree program in four years. Families and students shouldn’t expect a four-year college degree to take five, six or more years to complete.

SPEECH CODES: Many schools stifle free speech on campus. ACTA partnered with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to assess the state of free speech on campus. Of the institutions that have ratings from FIRE, less than 4 percent receive a “green light” rating for not threatening free speech. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) garner a “red light” rating, meaning the institution has at least one policy that “clearly and substantially” restricts freedom of speech.

COST:  Is that famous school in fact worth its enormous and ever-rising sticker price? President Barack Obama has called for a federal ranking to show how colleges and universities perform. What Will They Learn?  provides a reliable set of data, without federal intervention, which can show which colleges provide a strong liberal arts education, respect freedom of speech, and, as the president said, which colleges offer “the most bang for your educational buck.”

“Sadly, the picture that most Americans have of higher education—four-year degrees, unfettered debate and discussion, and a strong curriculum—simply isn’t accurate at too many of our colleges and universities,” said Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “Our nation’s institutions of higher education are limiting access and failing to prepare the next generation.”

There were 32 private institutions with tuition over $25,000, first-time, full-time graduation rates below 50 percent and a curriculum that earns a “D” or “F” in What Will They Learn?  They are joined by seven public institutions with similarly low graduation rates, weak core curricula, and an out-of-state tuition above $25,000.  In ACTA’s opinion, these schools could well be called tuition traps. More detailed data for the 1,091 colleges and universities is available at the WhatWillTheyLearn? website.

Media Contact:

Daniel Burnett, Press Secretary

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

Direct: 202-467-0376


California Master Plan Needs A Major Overhaul

California’s Little Hoover Commission, an independent oversight panel that submits recommendations to the governor and the state’s Legislature, on Monday released a report that calls on lawmakers and higher-education leaders to scuttle the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education and draw up a new blueprint that better meets the needs of students and the demands of the state’s work force. The report says the state’s current three-tiered system, which consists of the University of California, California State University, and community colleges, is failing to produce enough graduates at a time when the state has finite resources to devote to higher education. The report also states that online education holds “great promise” for increasing access and lowering costs, but says it appears that California is “moving substantially slower than it should to integrate online because of faculty opposition and/or general inertia.” The post is from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Ticker blog.

Record Number Start College In High School

A record number of students are getting a head start on college credits while in high school, cutting costs, and speeding toward degrees as quickly as possible. In addition to taking AP tests or dual enrollment courses, students are receiving college credit for life experiences, or skipping their senior years to attend early colleges. Some 1.3 million students took dual enrollment classes in 2010-11, according to federal data — a 67% increase since 2003. The article is in the Hechinger Report.

Should We Rank Community Colleges?

Ever since U.S. News & World Report began ranking colleges and universities in 1983, academic institutions, prospective students, and parents alike have been obsessed with tracking the movement of schools up and down the list. The rankings have been controversial from the start, with many critics questioning whether they emphasize the wrong features or provide an accurate guide for students and families. In 2005, Washington Monthly began its own alternative college rankings, focusing not on the SAT scores of incoming students but on metrics such as graduation rates, spending on academic research, and the involvement of students in ROTC, community service, or the Peace Corps. Earlier this year, the White House developed a college scorecard using many of the same measures. Washington Monthly has recently added community colleges to its annual college guide, making it the only national publication to attempt an assessment of the two-year institutions that educate millions of Americans. We spoke with Paul Glastris, a veteran journalist and editor of Washington Monthly, who first developed the magazine’s innovative college-ranking system nearly a decade ago. Edited interview excerpts are in The Atlantic Cities.